Every year at the State Fair, there are hundreds of different competitions to enter. Each category of competitions is managed by its own superintendent. This year, the Flower and Garden Show has a new superintendent in charge and his name is Daniel Danford.
Daniel and his friend Ashlyn riding the Ferris wheel at the N.C. State Fair.
In addition to the Flower Show, Daniel enjoys rides like roller coasters and the Ferris Wheel and the horticulture exhibits including the giant pumpkins and watermelons.
Danford has been working at the flower and garden show for about eight years as an assistant to past superintendents. “In the past, I helped design and install lights in the gardens. I have just overseen that ever since,” he said.
Thousands and thousands of lights are used every year to decorate the garden. Although Danford uses Christmas lights, you will never see red and green lights together.
When Danford is not working at the Flower and Garden Show, he is at his other job, Premier Concepts as a project coordinator for mill casework and cabinets. He currently works on a health park in north Raleigh. His job allows him the flexibility needed to supervise one of the largest competitions at the fair.
In 2018, 349 exhibitors entered 11,868 exhibits in the flower show. The flower show has an occasional volunteer but most of the staff are employees. The work is divided between gardeners and judges. There is a judging pool of about 20 people, with about 12 to 15 judges that work each show. Most judges are trained and/or certified through the Rose Society or Garden Clubs of America.
“The Flower Show has a staff of four to six employees that work long hours during the fair. There is also a program where garden clubs and organizations like Master Gardner chapters can come out and work for a day and the paycheck is sent to the club, not the worker. This program has five workers each hour during the daytime and four workers each hour during the evening. This keeps us fully staffed,” said John Buettner, competitive exhibits coordinator.
The Flower and Garden Show has three different competitions, and in those three, there are multiple categories and classes that are judged. Danford said he likes all the competitions, but picks the special rose exhibits as his favorite. “There are so many unique roses that enter every year.”
Each show is set up for a few days and then a new one rotates in. “Turnover is challenging because we try and make the competitions as accessible as possible, but it is also hard to do that when the flowers are on display for only a couple of days. We work late at night making sure that the next competition is all set up and ready,” Danford said.
Superintendents also get a chance to showcase their creativity during the Flower Show. Each year the superintendent has a space in the gardens where they can create any type of masterpiece they want. Last year’s superintendent made a butterfly out of different colored mums. Danford has big plans for his masterpiece and is excited to reveal it on the first day of the fair.
Another thing he is looking forward to this year is the themes for the competitive gardens, which offer some of the biggest premiums for fair competitions. For each theme in the competitive gardens there is a prize of $800 for first place, $700 for second and $600 for third. New themes to be on the lookout for are Artist Pallet-create a colorful vegetable garden, Board Game-create your favorite board game, Historical Garden-recreate a garden dating back to the 19th century, Party Thyme-Herb garden, Breast Cancer Awareness- Think pink but keep it tasteful, and Favorite Tim Burton Animation-create a garden with elements from Tim Burton Animation.
Registration for competitions are now open. Visit N.C. State Fair Competitions for more information.